Hamburg, Germany.- The Hamburger Kunsthalle is proud to present “Exhausted Heroes: Ferdinand Hodler – Aleksandr Dejneka – Neo Rauch” on view through May 13th. The exhibition deals with the utopian ideal of the ‘Neue Mensch’ (‘new man’) and its history in the 20th century. In the oeuvre of the three painters featured in this exhibition, the radical transformation of this ideal can be observed in exemplary fashion. It starts with the proclamation of the ‘new man’ at the beginning of the 20th century, leads on to the political appropriation of the ideal in the vision of a socialist order, and ultimately draws to a close with the abandonment of all idealism after the end of Communist rule in the East Bloc in the late 1980s.
The art of the Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) is deeply rooted in the ideals of the ‘life reform’ movement. The discourses of a ‘new man’ that featured so prominently, and with great pathos, in the Lebensreform movement naturally found their way into his paintings. Despite their monumental appearance, his large-scale renditions of both female and male figures are marked by a measure of decoration and affectation. To the degree that Hodler subdued the heroism of his figures, they are here presented as tired, or ‘exhausted heroes’.
Kursk-born painter Aleksandr Dejneka (1899-1969), was a leading representative of postrevolutionary painting in Russia between 1918, the year of Hodler’s death, and 1932, when Socialist Realism was proclaimed as the official art of the Soviet Union. In his subject matter, in the painterly modeling of his figures, and in their gestures and posture, Dejneka closely appropriates the model of Hodler’s figural compositions and relocates them in a post-revolutionary Russian context – a process that has hitherto gone unnoticed. In this way, for instance, Dejneka transforms Hodler’s blossoming nature into an industrial landscape under construction. His working women and men appear like a renewal of the Swiss painter’s symbolist works in proletarian guise. After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the painter Neo Rauch (*1960), who grew up and was educated in East-Germany, takes up exactly the type of figure developed by Hodler and Dejneka. In conscious reference to the heroes of technology and industry from the ‘Twenties and ‘Thirties, Rauch’s figures are frozen in meaningless postures, performing inhibited actions and quixotic rituals in late industrial settings. The utopian vision of a ‘new man’ is here turned into a complete denial of any faith in progress or ideology of any kind. In the exhibition ‘Exhausted Heroes’ the oeuvre of Neo Rauch, the internationally renowned representative of the ‘Leipzig School’ of painting, is for the first time presented in a historical and an art-historical perspective. Moreover, the exhibition offers a singular opportunity to discover the oeuvre of Aleksandr Dejneka, a painter very highly-esteemed in Russia, who is represented by a large number of important works that have never before been shown in Germany. In thematically ordered references to the large number of works by their modern predecessor, Ferdinand Hodler, the exhibition presents a historical development from the ‘New Man’ around 1900 to the contemporary figure of a ‘Tired Hero’. The exhibition comprises more than a hundred large-scale paintings as well as prints and drawings.
The Hamburger Kunsthalle is one of the largest and most important museums of art in Germany. Its superb permanent collection takes visitors on a journey through seven centuries of art history, from the medieval altars of Master Bertram through to the stars of the contemporary art scene such as Gerhard Richter and Neo Rauch. Among the highlights of the collection are Dutch paintings of the 17th century, including works by Rembrandt and Ruisdael, German painting of the Romantic period with extensive groups of works by Caspar David Friedrich and Philipp Otto Runge, as well as important paintings by Adolph Menzel and Max Liebermann. The outstanding collection of classical modernist art features works by Max Beckmann, Edvard Munch and the painters of the “Brücke” group. In addition to its permanent collection, the Hamburger Kunsthalle has also won international acclaim for the quality of its special exhibitions, which attract thousands of visitors to the city every year. The Hamburger Kunsthalle consists of three striking buildings: the brick building from 1869 with its ornamental facade, the neoclassical extension building from 1919 made of light-coloured shell limestone, and the white cube of the Galerie der Gegenwart designed by architect Oswald Mathias Ungers and opened in 1997. Centrally located between Hamburg’s main railway station and the Alster lakes, the Kunsthalle is therefore also one of the city’s architectural highlights. Besides offering wonderful surroundings for the appreciation of art, the Kunsthalle also houses two museum shops with a large selection of international art books, posters, postcards and design objects for sale. Visitors can enjoy one of the finest views of the city from the Bistro in the Galerie der Gegenwart, which together with Café Liebermann in the historical section of the museum and the new Café George Economou in the rotunda offers a relaxing dining experience. Visit the museum’s website at … http://www.hamburger-kunsthalle.de